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Dominion
J.Y.T. Kennedy
Dragon Moon Press, 280 pages

Dominion
J.Y.T. Kennedy
J.Y.T. Kennedy lives on a hobby farm near Ardrossan, Alberta.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

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Gilna is an apprentice "perfumer" -- an expert in the mixing of medicines, incense and scented oils. After studying in the plains city of Nenaril Jad, she returns to her home village of Rehinau in the foothills to continue her apprenticeship. But her studies are far from complete when the village is devastated -- first by a plague that kills the majority of her people (including her teacher) and then by barbarians who slaughter the survivors and take their children captive.

The barbarians are the Kurathk, nomadic warriors so ferocious that both the men and women fight and do not breed -- they replenish their ranks by snatching children from their enemies and raising them as soldiers. Gilna is spared only because the queen has begun looking for women with useful skills.

Thus Gilna becomes perfumer to the Kurathk queen. But she is only biding her time. Soon she intends to wreak revenge and slaughter the race who have destroyed her own people.

Dominion is a book that doesn't fit easily into a neat genre niche, so it's easy to see why it might come out from a small press rather than a New York Fantasy publisher. In fact I found myself puzzled by many facets of this novel until I went to the source herself, who explained that she'd started writing it when she was in university studying Shakespeare and ancient Greek. Then the penny dropped. It's a classical tragedy.

And it's very well done. The settings are strong, the protagonist is compelling, and the situation is altogether too real. It is not a comfortable thing to contemplate how one would react in Gilna's shoes -- captured by an enemy after seeing one's own home and people destroyed. Jennifer Kennedy is not a woman to start off with a small canvas.

Finally, this is a page turner. Despite its darkness, and the unusual prehistoric setting, I found myself sitting up late at night to finish just one more page and then one more after that.

I hope this impressive debut novel doesn't vanish without trace. Its title, regrettably, does nothing to sell the story and makes an unfortunate combination with a cover that looks like a painting of the Canadian Rockies. That conjunction conjures up all sort of misleading visions of Nelson Eddy or the Maple Leaf Forever, instead of Othello or Medea.

This book is worth looking for. If you can't find it elsewhere, it's at www.dragonmoonpress.com.

Copyright © 2005 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at http://www.donna-mcmahon.com/.


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